PSFEI celebrates success of facility management course and awards attendees

The 2017 Effective Facility Management short course, offered by PSFEI, concluded last week at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center. Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Anyone can manage a facility. However, the best facilities, those that are the most efficient, are operated by personnel who successfully complete the Effective Facility Management (EFM) program, a short course offered by Penn State Facilities Engineering Institute (PSFEI). This is what the education team at PSFEI wants each and every attendee of its highly successful and quick-to-fill course to be able to say at the end of each three-year program.

And, if enrollment figures and the growing list of award recipients over the past eight years are any indication, one could easily conclude the EFM course is one of the best available.  

PSFEI Manager Robert Bruce created the current course structure and launched the tiered structure in 2009 to replace Effective Management of the Physical Plant, a previous version of the program. “Prior to 2009, PSFEI offered a similar course,” said Bruce. “But, it was offered on an annual basis and lacked content that was important to the development of Commonwealth client facility maintenance managers.”

A former facility manager in his earlier years, Manager Robert Nelson further developed and upgraded the three-year course to incorporate items he felt would benefit a person who may have been a tradesperson (e.g., electrician, plumber, HVAC tech, etc.) for many years before becoming a facility manager. “A tradesperson doesn’t necessarily need the same skills and education as that of a facility manager, but for those who aspire to grow their careers, a progressive program like ours works well for facilities personnel at every level,” Nelson said. 

Over the past eight years, the EFM program has grown significantly, thanks in part to a more-structured format, targeted topics, and a team of instructors that boasts more than 80 years of combined experience.

The course attended by today’s facility maintenance managers and personnel is short in days and hours, but long in years. Offered as a complimentary course for PSFEI agency contract personnel at a nominal fee for non-contract personnel, the EFM program provides an orderly progression of course topics on a three-year schedule to enhance the knowledge and effectiveness of facility management personnel.

Track I, offered during the first year, is intended for the beginning facility or building manager that needs to better understand facility infrastructure fundamentals. Track II, offered during the second year, introduces the facility or building manager to the fundamentals of management, communication, leadership and staff interaction. Track III, offered during the final year of the course, provides specific tools for facilities management, including project and construction management fundamentals, project estimating, report writing basics, and dealing with difficult personnel issues. 

To earn an award plaque, attendees must complete all three tracks.

Educational Program Manager William Lash said the three-year structure has been a key factor in the success of the program. “We’ve built this program by following a structure one would expect to see in a college or university setting,” said Lash. “While the information presented in the course is intense, it is disseminated over a three-year period. By teaching the program this way, attendees are able to build upon skills and information gathered during each track, similar to how a college student would take an entry-level course, followed by an advanced-level course.”

Lash added: “And, when our students are pleased with the outcome of their experiences, word spreads and our program grows.”

Lash’s statement is reinforced by numbers. Since the program’s inception in 2009, nearly 60 contracted and non-contracted facility managers have completed the course, including 10 who completed the course late last week at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.

Carol Piontkowski, an environmental engineer consultant with the Department of Corrections, is among the 10 participants who received an award this year.

“By attending the short course for the three-year cycle, I have gained and am still seeking ways to communicate effectively with the facility maintenance managers by understanding more of the technical aspects of the operating systems, and consequently an approach to solving problems related to those systems,” Piontkowski said. “The course also emphasizes the importance of maintaining a good rapport within your working environment. General morale, positive feedback and listening to the needs of others are key.”

Piontkowski said she would recommend the course to all facility maintenance managers. “I would suggest they take it to evaluate their role from the perspective of the instructor, and also to collaborate with their peers to confirm what historically works for effective facility management.”

Facility personnel interested in attending the EFM course are encouraged to register early, as prospects frequently encounter a waitlist. Prospective attendees are advised to begin checking the PSFEI website in March 2018, and watch their emails for registration information. Anyone with specific questions can also contact William Lash at

Carol Piontkowski, an environmental engineer consultant with the Department of Corrections, is among the 10 participants who received an award this year at PSFEI's Effective Facility Management course. Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated June 12, 2017